I'm a writer. It's what I do. It's who I am. I can find a story anywhere. A passing cloud may suggest a dolphin, and suddenly, I'm in the ocean on a wild adventure. I'm lucky that I can share those stories.
I write a great deal of fiction, and there is never more honesty than in fiction writing. A nonfiction writer is reorganizing and regurgitating facts already in existence. They are repainting pictures that have already been painted, and adding a little of their own flair in the form of opinion in to the mix. Those authors are amazing, and spend countless hours researching, interviewing witnesses, and bringing truth to their readers, but the work doesn't say a whole lot about how the author thinks and feels, or who the author is. Fiction, on the other hand, is borne of imagination. The truth is in the characters and worlds I create. What you read has been sitting in my head for a while. I've thought about it. I've researched it. It is of utmost importance that my readers feel like they are there, experiencing what I'm describing in my writing. I'm not sure why I feel the need to be as detailed as I am, but here we are. Have you ever wondered how I can describe death and torture in such detail? Have you ever wondered if, perhaps, I was confessing instead of creating? All of my stories may be borne out of my imagination. It's possible. I suppose if you were motivated enough, you could find the answer at mile marker 144.
I can't make it easy for you. I'm not going to tell you the state, nor highway. If you pay attention, you can find your way there.
The details are pretty clear, even years after the fact. Four years ago, in the month of July. The ocean breeze hung thick in the air, and the fog was so thick. Visibility was limited to the headlights, just in front of the Winnebago I was driving. The lights of what little city existed just before had quickly been enveloped in the rearview mirror by the thick fog. I didn't see him until it was too late. He was in the road. He wasn't on the shoulder; he was in the middle of my lane, and I hit him.
Charles Parker Wardrip. That's what his Mississippi identification said. Born September 12, 1984. Six foot and one inch tall, with long braids that hung under his wool sock hat. I leaned over his body there on the highway, and I didn't see any blood. I thought that, perhaps, he was just knocked out. I felt for a pulse on his neck, and found nothing. I tried again on his wrist and, again, nothing. I shined the flashlight in his eyes, and all I found was a blank stare. I wasn't sure what to do at first, but I knew I didn't have much time. Someone would be along soon—After all, it IS a major highway. I made a quick decision to pull him into the Winnebago. It wasn't an easy task. 220 pounds of dead weight is not fun to move alone. I had to drag him from his position, in the middle of the highway to the side of the road. I stepped up into the RV through the main door, and pulled him up and on to the floor. I shut the door, climbed back behind the wheel, and put it in drive. I had to figure out what to do with him. No way was I answering questions about why a dead guy ended up in my vehicle, so calling the cops was out of the question. I could tell by the look of his clothes and the dirt on his skin that he was a drifter. Young, but I'm sure he ran away from home to prove his point to mommy and daddy. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure nobody would miss him, and that I should just get rid of him. I continued to drive south, but then thought the better of it, flipped around at the next wide spot in the road, and traveled north again. Just beyond the bridge, I made a left turn into the entrance to the state park. I very quietly parked the Winnebago in an empty campsite, put my payment and registration in the night drop-box, and went to bed.
The morning sun rose, burning away the thick fog that often settled in the area nightly. South was where I would go. Just get rid of him and move on. Nobody would ever know, right? South. I would go south. I knew where I would take Charlie (Charlie and I were pretty casual with one another by then. I didn't think he would mind the nickname). I cautiously approached the intersection at the exit to the state park, and made a right turn. I had driven through the area before, and I knew that the area, being so close to an airport, was full of law enforcement. I took a deep breath, fastened my seat belt, and accelerated to 35. It wasn't long before I passed the small airport on the left. Once past the airport, the law enforcement vehicles would significantly decrease in frequency. As long as I obeyed the speed limit, I would be fine.
Traffic was horrendous, as was par for the course at that time of year. The drive would take longer than Google Maps predicted, and I thought while I drove. I was unsure of how to get Charlie from the bedroom where I had moved him that morning, and out of my rig. In just a few short miles, I would have my answer in the form of a hitchhiker.
He said his name was Larry Lundquist, but everyone just called him "Lumpy." I didn't dare ask where the nickname came from, and he didn't offer. That was fine with me. I needed him to help me get rid of the body already hidden in the bedroom, behind a closed door. I told him I was looking for help that evening. The job would pay hourly, and it would pay cash. I would feed him and smoke weed with him while we waited for time to start work, and he could just hang out with me in the Winnebago until then. I wasn't worried about him finding the body. I knew I wouldn't leave him alone inside my rig, even for a moment. He agreed, and south we went.
For the next 27 miles, I drove, and Lumpy and I talked about whatever came to mind. He was 19, and hungry for adventure. He left his family back at his home in Ohio, and hitchhiked his way across the country. After spending a year in the state just north of us, he had made his way this far, and at that moment, he was looking for a place to pitch his tent for the next year. His parents had no idea where he was, explaining that he had only intended to stay gone for the summer, but when no call ever came from his family to check on him, he kept going. He made a few calls home, and at the end of that month when his cell phone bill was due, he allowed the payment to lapse, and the phone was shut off. He said he missed his sister, but nothing else about Ohio. That was exactly what I was looking for.
40 minutes later, I squeezed the Winnebago into the tight parking area on the right shoulder, and shut off the motor. It was still early, so I would have to wait to dump Charlie's body, but that was okay. It was a beautiful day, and I had just purchased some top-shelf marijuana the day previous. Lumpy and I would pass our day just fine.
After smoking a bowl or three, we decided to go explore a little. We climbed out of the Winnebago, making sure all the doors were locked, and turned to admire the area. This was the place I was looking for. An area thick with basalt rock, and, attracting thousands every year, it was the hole in the basalt rock they were coming to see. It was seemingly a portal, where the water was caught in endless ebb and flow. Sometimes the scene was serene, with the ocean rolling softly beyond the shoreline made entirely of rock. Other times, such as high tide or when a storm was making its way ashore, huge streams of water shot several feet out of the hole as the ocean, and slammed into the bowl-shaped crater. At just the right moment, I knew I could use the ebb and flow to my advantage, and get rid of both bodies at once.
I stretched, yawned, and turned to look around me. There was a large mountain behind me, the highway separating the parking area and the mountainside. Cars, trucks, RVs, and semi-trucks formed a never-ending chain of motion for as far as I could see in both directions. There wasn't much to do but wait for the right time. Lumpy and I took a slow stroll around the area, stretching our legs a bit. Since there wasn't much to do but wait, I suggested a movie, and Lumpy agreed. It would be the last movie he would ever watch, so I let him choose.
For the following six hours, Lumpy and I smoked continuously while we watched the Expendables trilogy. I had to refill the generator with gas once, and I made Lumpy go outside with me. I just explained it away as a heavy gas can, and left it at that. While Lumpy set up the third and final movie, I made sandwiches. After we ate, and I had things cleaned up, we talked a little about the job that evening. I told him that it was manual labor, and it was illegal. I told him that if we got caught, we would go to jail for a really long time. He was ready. He was "down" to do whatever needed to be done, to earn the $1,000 I laid on the table before him. Just as the movie ended, I moved to the back of the Winnebago and opened the bedroom door. Lumpy's eyes got big, and I could see him shaking from across the room.
I instructed Lumpy to clean out all of his pockets, leave it and his money in his gear, and leave it on the floor inside the RV. He did as he was told, and when he was finished, we opened the door to the outside so that we could have a look around. The parking area was empty, and it was slightly overcast, just hiding the moonlight. Perfect for the cover we needed to finish this job.
Lumpy grabbed Charlie by his feet, and pulled him out of the bedroom. He was getting stiff, and he was so heavy. Lumpy was strong though, and was able to throw Charlie over his shoulder. All that was left to do was to get him down the path and across the basalt rock, to the bowl that had formed there. It didn't take long to make the trek to the bowl, though poor Charlie was dropped twice on the way there. Lumpy leaned over a bit, and dumped Charlie off of his shoulder and into the water. He flopped back on his butt onto the wet rock next to the bowl, gasping for breath. I patted him on the shoulder and told him he did a good job. As he sat looking, Charlie slamming against the rock with each wave, I removed a large white zip tie from my pocket, and quickly slipped it over his head and around his neck. I pulled as hard as I could, and he tried to get up as he reached for his throat. I pushed, and he fell in the bowl with Charlie. I waited for his cries to stop, and it was apparent he wasn't alive any longer, and I crossed the field of basalt rock, climbed the path to the parking area, and climbed in my Winnebago. I started the engine, reversed, and pointed the rig south.
That's it. That's the truth. Or, is it?